Thursday, October 22, 2009

You will get your guilt?

Sunday after church, a mom asked her very young daughter what the lesson was about. The daughter answered, "Don't be scared; you'll get your quilt."

Needless to say, the mom was perplexed.

Later in the day, the pastor stopped by for tea and the mom asked him what that morning's Sunday school lesson was about.

He said, "Be not afraid; thy comforter is coming."

When Jesus told the Rich Young Man to sell all and give it to the poor he was not telling us to do the same. What he was telling us was to not make any thing, activity, person or commitment more important than our commitment to love and serve Him and His Church.

Just as there is a big difference between “you will get your guilt” and “your comforter is coming” so there is a big difference between, “give it all away” and “use it all for Me and My church.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oh Foolish Galations

We’ve GOT to listen to somebody…we can’t listen to everybody…and when we make “please everybody” our goal then we will live in a constant state of fear and frustration.

Who are the wrong people? It’s really simple…there are people that do not love you, do not know you, have never tried to understand you and spend the majority of their time attacking you and others. They are not motivated by the love of God…but rather their own pride and arrogance (which they accuse you of because you will not listen to them…which is ironic!) You cannot let those who don’t love you and are not willing to stand beside you be the dominating voice in your life!

Friday, October 9, 2009

God called Paul to S___?

While reading for the New Testament Challenge I was stopped in my reading when I read again the God's words to Ananias, “Go! This man [Paul] is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16 ( NIV )).
Suffering? I thought he was called to serve? Turns out that Paul talks about service in terms of suffering and suffering in terms of service almost as much as he talks about the division of the Spirit and the flesh, except there are three distinct types of "suffering."
Persecution is suffering all believers endure. Some more benign, as in the West where Christians are treated as slightly demented relatives, and some much more severe as in North Korea where conversion is followed by death. In 1 Cor 4:12 Paul makes it clear that persecution is to be "endured" which leads me to pray for strong knees for prayer in my old age.
Tribulation is a more active attack from spiritual forces and could also be taken as "temptations" especially when they come from poor choices. We bring on tribulation by choosing to be with a certain crowd and then refusing participate in their chosen activities. Parents of school age children face tribulation in California as their children are taught tenants not consistent with the faith - but any rebuttal leads to prejudice shown to their children.
Suffering is more generic and could refer to "walking miles to do ministry" or "facing firing for not lying to a customer."
Jesus was calling Paul to suffer in all three categories - I invite you to send me examples of each.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What We Learn from Jesus' Temptation

I have often quoted 1 Corinthians 10:13 when faced with trials and even strong desires that would move me out of God's approved path. You may remember it: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." I have found it comforting at times but more often confusing as I struggled with issues that seemed to take over my life, sometimes for years. During the New Testament Challenge I was reading Matthew 4:1-11 where Matthew recounts the temptations of Jesus and I found there some consolation. It seems to me the temptations of Jesus are a template for all the temptations we are likely to face with the added benefit of "a way out so that [I] can stand up under it."
The first is the temptation to multiply what is in our hand for personal ease and comfort. What is at hand is the ability to make bread from rocks - or - money from using others; two helpings just for me from the loaded Thanksgiving platter; my own - for me only...whatever. Jesus shows us that we can only overcome this selfishness by reminding ourselves that our lives are not about us but about others.
The second is the temptation take God's promises and require them of God - to make God protect us from our impetuousness - recklessness - powerlessness. If Jesus was not willing to put God to the test to protect Him from harm should he through himself off a building, we must be doubly dubious about putting ourselves in personal, financial, spiritual danger because we believe God will never let us be harmed if we are doing "His Will." Here Jesus makes it clear that we do not want to be in the ranks of those challenging God unless He has invited that challenge.
Finally, the temptation to believe we can do it without God if we have a big enough bank roll, support base or preparation. James offers a bit of advice to believers who would never dream of denouncing God for any other power source but are willing to "go it alone" in earthly decisions when he warns in James 4:15-16, "Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil."
The antidote for all three forms of temptation is to pre-load holiness which Jesus offers in these words of response to the last temptation. “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” Matthew 4:10.

Save the Best to Last

I was invited to dine with a family some years ago while I was serving as the guest speaker for the church's Mission's Fair. They were a large family and their hospitality was just as great. As we sat for the meal the father led in prayer for God's gifts and barely took a breath from saying "Amen" before looking at me and announcing, "Life is short so I always eat dessert first."
I was impressed with his wisdom at the time, but, as I have aged I have come to realize that all that is good in life can be better appreciated after the less exotic tastes of beans, broccoli, and celery. While the broccoli feeds our nutrition and leaves us feeling good about our choices, it also clears our conscience for a small piece of pecan pie that feeds our taste buds.
I am reminded of the Wedding Feast at Cana of Galilee when Jesus was asked to supply more wine and rather than offering the pedestrian fair already consumed delivered a vintage with character eliciting from the Master of the Feast in John 2:10 the exclamation, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
Whatever has been on your plate this day - consume it - whether resolution of conflict, tedious book work, arduous cleaning and then be prepared for the dessert God has planned especially for you. It would not taste as fulsome served at the beginning of the day/life but it will be an eternal treat to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant, enter into your reward." I sure hope there is pecan pie in heaven.